Great plains of sweeping shortgrass prairie covers the eastern 40% of Colorado, covering the 40,000 square miles between Kansas and the urban Colorado Front Range cities. The land breaks with cottonwood-lined rivers—the Arkansas, South Platte, Republican, and Purgatoire—and green fields of sugar beets, wheat, and cantaloupes. Wide ranches dotted with grazing cattle, and natural wonders including the Pawnee Buttes, Picketwire Canyon, dinosaur tracks, and Picture Canyon can also be found in this region. And the ancestors of the first rugged pioneers still make their homes in the rural communities like Fort Morgan, Sterling, Limon, and La Junta that dot this all-American landscape.
If you visit in summer, prairie summers are hot so visit Jackson Lake and North Sterling State Parks for refreshing water recreation. Pawnee National Grassland stretches along the Wyoming border, offering hikers, birders, and horseback riders lots of terrain to explore.
Southeastern Colorado is a land of big sky, cliff-lined canyons, flat mesas, and broad plains. The Arkansas River, once followed by the Santa Fe Trail, meanders east from Cañon City to Kansas. The river corridor and U.S. 50 pass through Rocky Ford, La Junta, Las Animas, and Lamar. Fishermen enjoy casting lines at John Martin Reservoir State Park and in the Arkansas River. Comanche National Grassland, the crown jewel of the Eastern Plains, scatters across this empty corner of Colorado. The area offers marvels like scenic Picketwire Canyonlands, one of the world’s largest dinosaur trackways, ghost towns, Native American rock art sites, and Picture Canyon.